The School of Toronto Dance Theatre is making some seismic shifts to herald in a new era for the foundational institution established over 50 years ago. Following their launch of a fresh student-centred curriculum in the fall of 2022, they will be debuting a brand-new name and moving to a new location in Artscape’s Daniels Spectrum facility this May. Michelle Yeung, the school’s managing director, shares, “We truly believe that through this process, we’re balancing the many priorities of the school; we know we are preparing ourselves to be a forward-moving organization that is a leader in contemporary dance and prepares leaders for the field.”
Historically, the school has trained dancers to become part of Toronto Dance Theatre. As this is no longer the case, and hasn’t been for some time, now is the right time for this change. “The current name that we operate under is really a vestige of our past, and although we remain partners in dance, we have not been the school of the company for quite some time,” says Yeung. “The new name is a reflection of who we actually are at this current moment and our new value proposition as we move forward in our mission to train the next generation of dance artists. The new name also reflects our current and continued evolution in the field of contemporary dance, and it will encompass our new initiatives and programs.”
This process of deciding upon a new name and space for the school’s future has been undertaken with the utmost care, keeping the needs of their students in mind at every step. Yeung notes, “It’s about care and understanding, balancing the history as well as where we want to go. Specifically for the professional training program, our new student-centred philosophy is at the forefront of this decision-making, and that’s really amplified by finding a space that better serves our student needs as well as a curriculum so that we can prepare our dancers, our students, our dance artists, and to serve our community for a post-COVID arts sector. The name and the new space really reflect the education that they will receive moving forward, from the school.”
This mindful approach to change has, at some points, mirrored dance itself, with some steps being fast and exhilarating, such as when Yeung and Sasha Ivanochko, the artistic and pedagogical director, finally found the space they felt was the perfect fit, and others more measured, requiring attention to balance and patience, as nearly 200 voices and perspectives were part of this process.
Connecting with members of the larger dance community has been an integral part of this process. “It’s been very rewarding to see the growth and the change and the conversations that we’re having and how they’re really connecting to the value proposition of what we’re trying to do here in our mission,” says Yeung. “We’re excited for this new future because we’re so excited to connect with the next generation of aspiring dance artists and also the professional artists that are going to come through our programming in a new way.”
In addition to providing a space for their students to learn together under one roof, something they weren’t able to offer before, Yeung notes that the Daniels Spectrum space is “brimming with artmaking,” and the privilege they have in occupying this purpose-built space made for dance artists is one they are keen to share with the larger community. “Us taking over this space is expanding our footprint in dance and creating new spaces for dance artists and the dance community to have access to. And holding the space, we believe, is really around the development of dance, for the art form that has been historically underfunded,” she says.
Ivanochko has been a key member of charting this new path for the school and sees a new home and a new name as the logical next step in the journey: “Our new name honours our distinct artistic and educational identity and allows us the freedom to shape our future in step with the ongoing developments of the field of dance. With more than 1,000 alumni working professionally across the globe, the new name will highlight our national and international impact.”
The School of Toronto Dance Theatre will reveal its new name on May 9, and they have already begun moving into their new space. Follow them on social media @schooloftdt and check out schooloftdt.org to stay up to date on the new chapter of this pioneering institution.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2023 print issue.
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